Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm has been officially opened by Prince Charles.
The Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, located about eight miles (13km) off the coast of Wick in the far north, can generate enough energy to power 450,000 homes.
The £2.65bn project, which involves 84 huge turbines, came fully online in May and achieved 588MW of electricity.
It is Scotland’s single largest source of renewable energy.
The development, construction and operation were led by SSE Renewables in a joint venture with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power Limited.
Construction started in May 2016 and SSE said it was completed on time and £100m under budget.
Part of the project involved redeveloping buildings in Wick, the Caithness town where about 90 staff will look after the operations and maintenance of the wind farm over its 25-year lifespan.
Prince Charles, who is known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay, visited the offices of Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited and SSE Renewables in Wick to mark the official opening.
The two harbour-front buildings used for the Wick base were originally designed by renowned Scottish architect Thomas Telford for use in the herring industry.
The electricity generated by Beatrice travels along subsea and underground cables before coming ashore near Keith in Moray and connecting to the Blackhillock substation.
Big, but how big?
The world’s largest offshore wind farm is Walney, off the coast of Cumbria. It is said to be able to generate sufficient power for 600,000 homes.
Two other offshore sites have output greater than Beatrice:
- London Array, which is 10 miles north of Ramsgate in the Thames Estuary.
- Gemini Wind Farm, in the Netherlands.
The others in the top 10, in order of output, are:
- Gode Wind, in Germany
- Gwynt y Mor, off Llandudno in Conwy county.
- Race Bank, off the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coast.
- Greater Gabbard, off the Suffolk and Essex coast.
- Dudgeon, off the Norfolk coast.
- Veja Mate, in Germany
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said the scale of the project was “truly staggering”.
“Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resource and Beatrice represents one of the first steps in tapping it,” she said.
“As our offshore wind projects continue to build out we’ll see the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind grow across Scotland, with jobs and investment transforming communities, as they already are in Wick.”
She added: “With the right support from government, a supply chain which is competitive on price, quality and timescales and the commitment of industry, offshore wind has a bright future in Scotland as we work towards meeting some of the world’s most challenging climate change targets and building a smart energy system with renewable energy at its heart.”
The Beatrice project is the fourth largest offshore wind farm in the world, with only two projects in England and one off the Netherlands generating more energy.
However, the Beatrice array is built in deeper water, with jacket foundations each weighing in at about 1,000 tonnes installed in sea depths of up to 183ft (56m).
Earlier this month it was announced that wind power output in Scotland hit a record high during the first six months of 2019.
Figures from Weather Energy calculated the energy produced by turbines could power every home in Scotland and part of the north of England.
WWF Scotland described the trend as a “wind energy revolution”.